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About This Book

This book is aimed at readers who are new to Debian GNU/Linux. It assumes no prior knowledge of GNU/Linux or other Unix-like systems, but it does assume very basic general knowledge about computers and hardware; you should know what the basic parts of a computer are, and what one might use a computer to do.

In general, this tutorial tries to help you understand what happens inside a Debian system. The idea is to empower you to solve new problems and get the most out of your computer. Thus there's plenty of theory and fun facts thrown in with the ``How To'' aspects of the manual.

We'd love to hear your comments about this book! You can reach the authors at We're especially interested in whether it was helpful to you and how we could make it better. Whether you have a comment or think this book is the greatest thing since sliced bread, please send us e-mail.

Please do not send the authors technical questions about Debian, because there are other forums for that; see Appendix A on page [*] for more information on the documentation and getting help. Only send mail regarding the book itself to the above address.

How to Read This Book

The best way to learn about almost any computer program is by using it. Most people find that reading a book without using the program isn't beneficial. The best way to learn about Unix and GNU/Linux is by using them. Use GNU/Linux for everything you can. Feel free to experiment!

Debian isn't as intuitively obvious as some other operating systems. You will probably end up reading at least the first few chapters of this book. GNU/Linux's power and complexity make it difficult to approach at first, but far more rewarding in the long run.

The suggested way to learn is to read a little, and then play a little. Keep playing until you're comfortable with the concepts, and then start skipping around in the book. You'll find a variety of topics are covered, some of which you might find interesting. After a while, you should feel confident enough to start using commands without knowing exactly what they do. This is a good thing.

Tip: If you ever mistakenly type a command or don't know how to exit a program, press CTRL-c (the Ctrl key and the lowercase letter c pressed simultaneously). This will often stop the program.


Before going on, it's important to be familiar with the typographical conventions used in this book.

When you should simultaneously hold down multiple keys, a notation like CTRL-a will be used. This means ``press the Ctrl key and press lowercase letter a.'' Some keyboards have both Alt and Meta; most home computers have only Alt, but the Alt key behaves like a Meta key. So if you have no Meta key, try the Alt key instead.

Keys like Alt and Meta are called modifier keys because they change the meaning of standard keys like the letter A. Sometimes you need to hold down more than one modifier; for example, Meta-Ctrl-a means to simultaneously press Meta, Ctrl, and lowercase a.

Some keys have a special notation - for example, Ret (Return/Enter), Del (Delete or sometimes Backspace), Esc (Escape). These should be fairly self-explanatory.

Spaces used instead of hyphens mean to press the keys in sequential order. For example, CTRL-a x RET means to simultaneously type Ctrl and lowercase a, followed by the letter x, followed by pressing Return. (On some keyboards, this key is labeled Enter. Same key, different name.)

In sample sessions, bold face text denotes characters typed by the user, italicized text denotes comments about a given part of the sample session, and all other text is output from entering a command. For shorter commands, you'll sometimes find that the command can be found within other text, highlighed with a monospace font.

next up previous contents index
Next: Getting Started Up: Introduction Previous: What Is Free Software?   Contents   Index
John Goerzen / Ossama Othman